In the book “Jonathan James and the What-if Monster,” author Michelle Nelson-Schmidt teaches children that if they are afraid to try new things, they could miss out on some very wonderful experiences.
On Friday Nelson-Schmidt visited the Pennsylvania Avenue School in Atlantic City, where she shared her story and her books with students, donating 800 to children in the city’s schools affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The book donation was part of a Restore Our Shore Schools Through Literacy project sponsored by publisher Usborne Books and More and the Reading Council of Southern New Jersey. It gives new books to schools and children who lost theirs in the storm. Schools that earn free books at school book sales were able to donate books, the company matched the book sales with additional books and Nelson-Schmidt also donated books.
Nelson-Schmidt’s book is geared to students ages 3 to 8, but she said its message is for everyone.
“The message is about pursuing your dreams,” she said, and not being afraid of the “what-if” monster.
Students at the Pennsylvania Avenue School read the book Friday and drew pictures of monsters that were hung in the hallway and strung on a clothesline in the school library.
After the program, school library media specialist Jennifer Jamison and students sorted books that will be given to all students in preschool through second grade at the Pennsylvania Avenue School. She said the school has also received books through Scholastic and the Philadelphia Eagles.
“This will help students build home libraries,” she said.
The rest of the books were given to Atlantic City Teachers United, which formed after Hurricane Sandy to help school families recover.
ACTU coordinators Cynthia Llerena and Marie Kwart said they will distribute the books during the Read Across America event March 1. They said many families are still struggling to recover since the storm, but donations from schools in other states have helped a lot.
“We just got $4,500 in Walmart and Lowe’s gift cards from a school in Mississippi, and school supplies from a school in Georgia,” Llerena said. Teachers are also helping families without cars get what they need from the stores.
“Some families have just recently moved back home and now need to refurnish,” Kwart said.
Llerena said many need furniture, and they have been distributing it almost as quickly as it is donated. The group has been working with school parent centers to identify what each family needs, and the group’s Facebook page has helped generate donations from across the country.
Mary Beth Spitz, of Usborne Books and More, said they still have books available to public and private schools, day-care centers and preschools.
Playgroups Plus in Margate applied to receive books after a parent told owner Janet McCarron about the project.
“We had four feet of water in here,” McCarron said. “I had to close for a month. I could definitely use the books.”
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